Arabic Terms Used for Skin Complexions – The Black Arabs Encore

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Arabic Terms Used for Skin Complexions

There are many terms that describe complexions in the Arabic language that have different meanings from the same term today or that are no longer used. This is why many people who read descriptions using these terms don’t understand the true meaning of the descriptions.

White

One of these misunderstood terms is the term “white” . Most people think that when the Arabs of the past described a person’s complexion as “white”, they meant the same light complexion that is meant today. This isn’t true at all. When the Arabs described a person as “white”, they actually meant a dark complexion. Ibn Mandour, the well-known Arab linguist who was born in the 13th century AD and the author of the famous book on the Arabic language Lisan Al Arab, quotes from another famous book on the Arabic language called Al Tahdheeb the following:

“When the Arabs say that a person is white, they mean that he has a pure, clean, faultless integrity…They don’t mean that he has white skin, but they mean to speak well of his honor and the purity of his integrity. When they say that a person has a white face, they mean that his complexion is free from blotches and a blackness that is unattractive”.

The author of Al Tahdheeb is Mas’ud ibn Umar Sa’ad Al Deen Al Taftaazaani, the well-known Arab linguist who lived during the same time as Ibn Mandour.

Shams Al Deen Mohamed ibn Ahmed ibn Othman Al Dhahabi, a well-known historian also of the 13th century, says in his famous book Siyar A’alaam Al Nubalaa, “When the Arabs say that a person is white, they mean that he is black with a light-brownish undertone”. The Arabic definition of a white complexion is “al lown al hinti bi hilya sawdaa” . “Al lown” means complexion, “al hinti” means light brown, and “bi hilya sawdaa” means with a black appearance. It’s a black complexion with a light-brownish undertone.

The “hilya” of a person is what’s apparent in his/her color or appearance. So a person with a “hilya” (appearance) “sawdaa” (black) has a black appearance. So a person called “white”  by the Arabs of the past had a blackish complexion with a light-brown undertone.
So anyone who reads someone being described as “white” in an Arabic book of the past should understand that “white” means a dark complexion. It’s very important that people bear this in mind.

Red

Since in the past the term “white” was used for a person whose complexion was like a “black” person today, one must wonder what it is that the Arabs of the past called people who were “white” in the sense that the word is used today. In the past, those who had complexions like those who are considered “white” today were called red. Tha’alab, the Arabic language scholar of the 9th century AD says, “The Arabs don’t say that a man is white because of a white complexion. ‘White’ to the Arabs means that a person is pure, without any faults. If they meant that his complexion was ‘white’, they said ‘red'”.

Ibn Mandour says that the expression The Red People applies to the non-Arabs because of their whiteness and because of the fact that most of them are fair-skinned. He says that the Arabs used to call the non-Arabs such as the Romans and the Persians and their neighbors, The Red People. He also says that when the Arabs say that someone is white, they mean that he has a noble character–they don’t mean that he is white. He says that the Arabs call the slaves The Red People. This is because most of the slaves of the Arabs were white (red).

Al Dhahabi says “Red, in the speech of the people from the Hijaz, means fair-complexioned and this color is rare amongst the Arabs. This is the meaning of the saying ‘…(He was) a red man as if he is one of the slaves’. The speaker meant that his color is like that of the slaves who were captured from the Christians of Syria, Rome, and Persia”. So it must be understood that what people call “white” today was called “red” by the Arabs of the past. Click below for original in Arabic.

Adam

Another term that the Arabs used in the past to describe a complexion and that is misunderstood today is the term “adam”.  This term was used by the Arabs very often in the past. However, people today, both Arab and non-Arab, have no idea what this word means. Therefore, when they read about someone being described as “adam”, they have no idea what is meant. The term “adam” means very dark-skinned.

Ibn Athir, the famous scholar of the 12th century says concerning the term “adam”, “When used to describe the complexion of a human, it means very dark-skinned…It is said that the term comes from the expression the ‘face’ or ‘surface of the earth’ which means the color of the earth. From this term Adam, the father of mankind, received his name”.

Ibn Mandour says, “There is disagreement concerning the origin of the name of Adam, the father of mankind. Some people say that he was named Adam because he was created from the face (udma) of the earth. Other people say that he was named Adam because of the adam (very dark) complexion that Allah created him”. Ibn Mandour also says, “The scholars of the Arabic language say that the origin of our father Adam’s name is from the fact that he was created from dirt and also the color “adam” resembles the color of dirt”.

What these scholars say about the origin of our father Adam’s name is consistent with what Allah says in the Quran about the creation of Adam. Allah says that He created Adam from black mud. Since Adam was created from black mud, it’s only natural for his complexion to be like that of black mud, which is very “adam”. Click below for original in Arabic.

It appears that the word adam was also used in Hebrew. The word in Hebrew is admonee. The prophet David was described in the Old Testament as admonee. Esau was also described as admonee. Unfortunately many Jewish “scholars” translate the word incorrectly. They translate it as red. However, it’s very clear that the word in Arabic means black-skinned and the Arabic language and Hebrew language are similar. I doubt very seriously that the word could mean black in Arabic and red in Hebrew. Whoever makes such a contention should bring forth proof.

Black

Another misunderstood term used by the Arabs of the past to described a person’s complexion is the term “black”. It must be understood that when the Arabs of the past used the term “black” to describe a complexion, they meant that the person’s complexion was actually black–much darker than the complexion of people who are called “black” today. The Arabs used the term “black”  or they used the term “shadeed al udma (very adam)”. The two terms were used interchangeably to describe a very, very dark complexion. Most people who are called “black” today are actually not black. Many people mistakenly believe that an Arab that the Arabs described as “black” was from a different race or origin from the other Arabs.

This isn’t the case at all. When the Arabs described another Arab as black-skinned, they were only expressing the fact that the person was so dark-skinned that he/she was black, a color much darker than the color of most so-called African Americans and also a color much darker than the color of most so-called Africans. They didn’t mean that he/she wasn’t an Arab. The term “black” is used today for people who are not black at all. There are some peoples and tribes in Arabia and in so-called Africa who are black-skinned, but black-skinned is a specific complexion– a very, very dark complexion. This is an important point that must be kept in mind. See

Yellow

Another misunderstood term used by the Arabs of the past to describe a person’s complexion is the term “yellow”. When people read that a person was described as having a “yellow” complexion, they believe that what is meant is the light complexion that the term is used for today. However, when the Arabs of the past described a person’s complexion as yellow, they didn’t mean a light complexion at all. In fact, they meant that the person was black-skinned. The terms black and yellow were used interchangeably by the Arabs of the past.

Ibn Mandour says, “Yellow also means black… Al Faraa says concerning the words of Allah in the Quran, ‘Like they are yellow camels’, ‘Yellow (camels) here means black camels'”. You will find many Arabs who were known to be black-skinned described as both black-skinned and as yellow. For example in the book Kitab Al Aghani by Abu Al Faraj Al Asbahaani of the 10th century AD, Saeed Ibn Misjah, the well-known Arab singer of the 9th century AD, was described as both black-skinned and yellow in the same chapter. It is a known fact that Saeed Ibn Misjah was black-skinned. Both terms (black and yellow) were used to describe him in Kitab Al Aghani because the terms were used interchangeably by the Arabs of the past.

Green

Most people are unaware of the fact that the Arabs of the past used the term “green” for black. Black and green were used interchangeably. This is why black-skinned Al Fadl Ibn Al Abbas Ibn ‘Utba Ibn Abi Lahab said:

“I am the green (black) one. I am well-known. My skin is green (black). I am from the noble house of the Arabs. Whoever crosses swords with me, will cross swords with one who is noble and strong.”

 

5 thoughts on “Arabic Terms Used for Skin Complexions – The Black Arabs Encore”

  1. How you are you going to have a Arab complexion darker than the darkest african and not be considered negro?…uh I dont think so.And if the arabs were refering to some dark-skinned Arabs that were darker than mondern African Americans and Africans then where are these people today?

  2. In Hebrew language, the earth, as in soil is “adamah”. Blood is “dahm”; so when Yahuwah Eloaim made a form from the soil and gave it life mouth-nose and “kick-started” the heart-lung system, oxygenated blood flow under the dark-shaded skin resulted in the “blush” (evidence of red blood beneath the skin layer visible, to varying degrees, in all living “racial groups” of men), thus the name “Adam” for Mankind. When more of the red blood is visible and causes a fair tone, Hebrew language uses “admonee” which is translated “ruddy” in English Bibles.

    OXFORD’S DICTIONARY DEFINITION OF RUDDY:
    Ruddy:
    Pronunciation: /r?’dee/
    adjective (ruddier, ruddiest)

    1. (of a person’s face) having a healthy red color,

    2. having a reddish color:

    NOTE THE WORD “HEALTHY.”

    WEBSTER’S DICTIONARY DEFINITION OF RUDDY:

    Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary (1913) English – advanced version

    Ruddy \rud”dy\, a. [compar. ruddier; superl. ruddiest.] [as. rudig. see rud, n.]

    1. of a red color; red, or reddish; as, a ruddy sky; a ruddy flame. they were more ruddy in body than rubies. iv. 7.

    2. of a lively flesh color, or the color of the human skin in high health; as, ruddy cheeks or lips.

    Ruddy
    duck (zo?l.), an american duck (erismatura rubida) having a broad bill and a wedge-shaped tail composed of stiff, sharp feathers. the adult male is rich brownish red on the back, sides, and neck, black on the top of the head, nape, wings, and tail, and white on the cheeks. the female and young male are dull brown mixed with blackish on the back; grayish below. called also dunbird, dundiver, ruddy diver, stifftail, spinetail, hardhead, sleepy duck, fool duck, spoonbill, etc.

    Ruddy
    \rud”dy\, v. t. to make ruddy. [r.] w. scott.

    Ruddy adj

    1. inclined to a healthy reddish color often associated with outdoor life; “a ruddy complexion”; “a fresh and sanguine complexion” [syn: rubicund, sanguine]

    OXFORD’S DICTIONARY DEFINITION OF RUDDY:

    Ruddy:

    Pronunciation: /r?’dee/

    adjective (ruddier, ruddiest)

    1. (of a person’s face) having a healthy red color,

    2. having a reddish color:

    NOTE THE WORD “HEALTHY.”

    WEBSTER’S DICTIONARY DEFINITION OF RUDDY:

    Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary (1913) English – advanced version

    Ruddy \rud”dy\, a. [compar. ruddier; superl. ruddiest.] [as. rudig. see rud, n.]

    1. of a red color; red, or reddish; as, a ruddy sky; a ruddy flame. they were more ruddy in body than rubies. iv. 7.

    2. of a lively flesh color, or the color of the human skin in high health; as, ruddy cheeks or lips.

    Ruddy duck (zo?l.), an american duck (erismatura rubida) having a broad bill and a wedge-shaped tail composed of stiff, sharp feathers. the adult male is rich brownish red on the back, sides, and neck, black on the top of the head, nape, wings, and tail, and white on the cheeks. the female and young male are dull brown mixed with blackish on the back; grayish below. called also dunbird, dundiver, ruddy diver, stifftail, spinetail, hardhead, sleepy duck, fool duck, spoonbill, etc.

    Ruddy

    \rud”dy\, v. t. to make ruddy. [r.] w. scott.

    Ruddy

    adj

    1. inclined to a healthy reddish color often associated with outdoor life; “a ruddy complexion”; “a fresh and sanguine complexion” [syn: rubicund, sanguine]

    NOTICE THE DEFINITIONS REFERING TO RUDDY AS HEALTHY, BROWNISH, LIVELY, AND FRESH IN COMPLEXION, WHICH IMPLIES HANDSOMENESS OR BEAUTY.

    NOW, IF YOU GOOGLE RED COWS AND CLICK ON IMAGES, YOU WOULD SEE BROWN COWS NOT RED COWS. SO RUDDY SHOULD MEAN BROWNISH.

    NOW, LET’S CHECK OUT THE DEFINITION OF BROWN:

    Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary (1913),

    English – advanced version

    brown

    \brown\, n. a dark color inclining to red or yellow, resulting from the mixture of red and black, or of red, black, and yellow; a tawny, dusky hue.

    THEY DESCRIBE BROWN AS A DARK COLOR INCLINING TO RED OR YELLOW (THEY CALL LIGHT SKIN NEGROS AS YELLOW AND OR RED BONE).

    AND HERE IS THE OXFORD DICTIONARY:

    brown

    Pronunciation: /broun/

    adjective

    of a color produced by mixing red, yellow, and black, as of dark wood or rich soil: an old brown coat she had warm brown eyes

    dark-skinned or suntanned:

    SO BROWN IS MADE BY MIXING RED, YELLOW, AND BLACK……AND LIKENED TO RICH SOIL OF THE EARTH JUST LIKE THE SCRIPTURE JEREMIAH 14:2. NOT TO MENTION THEY ALSO SAID SUN-TANNED LIKE SONGS OF SOLOMON 1:6 “BECAUSE THE SUN HATH LOOKED UPON ME”, MEANING DARK SKINNED.

    IN GENESIS THE MOST HIGH EXPLAINED HOW MAN WAS MADE AND WHAT HE WAS MADE FROM.

    Gn 2:7 And Yahuweh Elohim formed man (AHDAM) [of] the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.

    “MAN” HERE IS THE HEBREW WORD, ???, AHDAM. THE VERSE GIVES YOU THE DE
    Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary (1913),

    English – advanced version

    brown

    \brown\, n. a dark color inclining to red or yellow, resulting from the mixture of red and black, or of red, black, and yellow; a tawny, dusky hue.

    THEY DESCRIBE BROWN AS A DARK COLOR INCLINING TO RED OR YELLOW (THEY CALL LIGHT SKIN NEGROS AS YELLOW AND OR RED BONE).

    AND HERE IS THE OXFORD DICTIONARY:

    brown

    Pronunciation: /broun/

    adjective

    of a color produced by mixing red, yellow, and black, as of dark wood or rich soil: an old brown coat she had warm brown eyes

    dark-skinned or suntanned:

    SO BROWN IS MADE BY MIXING RED, YELLOW, AND BLACK……AND LIKENED TO RICH SOIL OF THE EARTH JUST LIKE THE SCRIPTURE JEREMIAH 14:2. NOT TO MENTION THEY ALSO SAID SUN-TANNED LIKE SONGS OF SOLOMON 1:6 “BECAUSE THE SUN HATH LOOKED UPON ME”, MEANING DARK SKINNED.

    IN GENESIS THE MOST HIGH EXPLAINED HOW MAN WAS MADE AND WHAT HE WAS MADE FROM.

    Among all African tribes, there are linguistic terms used for “black”- and fairer-skinned peoples within their communities. The Yorubas, for instance, may say ” dudu” for a particularly dark complexion (like olives) and ” pupa” for fair-complexion( like palm-oil). We must remember that there are in excess of 700 shades of skin tone among Africans, and individuals from the same genetic stock may exhibit the various shades of brown skin.

    The Hebrew word for white is “LABAN”. This was the name given to the brother of Rebekah (Isaac’s wife). Because he was an African albino.

  3. serially … !

    with all due respect, you are wrong in couple points here .

    first of all you was right about the “White” and
    “Red” paragraphs except that Arabs are
    blackish complexion that was completely wrong
    originally arabs go between dark and light brownish
    complexion , not blackish complexion coz there is
    a huge different between them. However, the word “Adam”
    has many meaning such as dark skin , agreement or peace, a plural word of skin, and finally huge body.

    secondly, you mentioned that Allah said he created Adam from black mud , which is wrong , ( ???????? ????????? ???????????? ???? ????????? ???? ?????? ?????????)
    which means Allah created Adam from a Pottery .
    another verses ( ??????????????? ?????? ??????? ??????? ???? ???? ????????? ?????? ????????????? ???? ????? ???????)
    which means Allah created Adam from a viscous coherent mud, it’s never mentioned a black mud.

    Also, the yellow in word always mean gold , or when the farm seasons came the corps turned yellow , arab called it yellow here ,
    yellow is called to asian and turkish they call them (bno alas far).
    you can find it here

    http://www.almaany.com/home.php?language=arabic&word=????&cat_group=1&lang_name=????&type_word=0&dspl=0

    Green color sometimes we call it to something darker or you can say it light black ,and about Al Fadl Ibn Al Abbas Ibn ‘Utba Ibn Abi Lahab when he said:
    “I am the green (black) one. I am well-known. My skin is green (black). he had a light black complexion, because his grandmother was a black Ethiopian and he get his black complexion from her.

    and for your info, any black arabian or a tribe he/it has a black ancestors.

  4. Excellent article. You know when you read the earliest transcript of the bible the Matthew Tydale bible it tells you King Davids color right?

    1 Samuel 16:12
    And he sent and brought him in. And he was ((BROWN)) with goodly eyes, and well favoured in sight. And then the LORD said up and anoint him: for this is he.

    The second written bible the Coverdale bible says he was well colored.(I’m pretty sure we know what that means.) And the KJV 1611 say he was ((Ruddy)) and it so happen that in a lot of bible dictionaries they define Ruddy- A red or ((FAIR COMPLEXION)) in contrast to the dark skin of the Hebrews.(1 Samuel 16:12) (1 Samuel 17:42) (Song of Sol 5:10)

    It really don’t take a rocket scientist or to much of deep research to find out King David skin color stood out more than the rest of the Israelites because he was a fairer or more radiant complexion. Now days they try to twist of up the meaning of words saying he was a pale faced red haired Caucasian boy with blues eyes..LOL! Ignoring that he was brown skinned to start off with which is a mixing of Yellow, black, and ((RED)) mostly likely not even lighter than me just a handsome brown skin(Ruddy Brown) little boy.

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